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Posted on March 21, 2013

At twelve years old, Kate Atwood lost her mother after a six year battle with breast cancer. Numbed by the loss, Kate immersed herself in sports and social activities but the spiritual void she felt in her life was still unfulfilled. It wasn’t until Kate became involved with a bereavement camp that she began to heal.

Inspired by Kate’s experience, Kate’s Club was created. A nonprofit that began in June 2003 with humble beginnings has now touched the lives of over 400 children and their families. The organization helps empower and heal children that have lost a sibling or parent by providing social, recreational and emotional support. Operated entirely on donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations, Kate’s Club offers all support services, programs, and camps free of charge.

The organization has earned well deserved publicity and recognition. Over the last few years, Kate’s Club has been featured on CNN, The View, and in several magazines. But more importantly, the publicity has been a way for many children and teens that have lost a loved one to find Kate’s Club and become a part of the organization.

Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta has connected Kate’s Club with generous volunteer attorneys to help with their legal needs, ranging from employment to contracts to intellectual property. According to Emily Brenner Hawkins, Executive Director of Kate’s Club, “the volunteer attorneys … have been incredibly experienced, effective and attuned to our needs as a nonprofit. The process of working with them and with PBPA has been a pleasure and the work has greatly strengthened the legal and policy framework of our organization. We are able to more effectively execute our mission because of our partnership with PBPA.”

The following attorneys have provided pro bono assistance to Kate’s Club through Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta. In addition, Valerie King (pictured 2nd from the left), not only advised Kate’s Club on legal issues, but also volunteers her time to Kate’s Club by visiting grieving children with rescue pets from Happy Tails, an animal rescue group.

Eric Barton of Seyfarth Shaw
Evan Pontz of Troutman Sanders
Mark Taylor of Taylor, English, and Duma
Mary Williams of The Coca-Cola Company
Ken Barr of The Home Depot
Christopher Holland of Smith, Gambrell, & Russell
Tim McDonald of Thompson Hine
Rick McMurtry and Toni Millner of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.

Posted on February 8, 2013
L-R: Reggie O’Shields and Jason Bernstein
Please see pictures of the reception here.

To celebrate another successful year, Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta held its eighth annual appreciation reception for donors and volunteers. Over 100 attorneys gathered at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton on January 29, 2013 to recognize the incredible work accomplished by PBPA volunteers this past year.

After PBPA clients Michael Kimsey of Resource Service Ministries and Christina Guillen of Jeryme Brown & Mitchell Smalls Foundation spoke about the importance of Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta to their organizations and the nonprofit community, Executive Director Rachel Epps Spears thanked all of the volunteer attorneys who contributed free legal services valued at over $2.3 million to nonprofit organizations in 2012. PBPA Board Vice Chair Betsy Griswold of the UPS Legal Department handed out Frabel glass peach sculptures to the following attorneys, law firms and corporations in recognition for outstanding volunteer achievement:

Turner Broadcasting System, Corporation of the Year
Alston & Bird, Law Firm of the Year
Volunteers of the Year:

  • Stephanie Aferiat of Home Depot
  • George Sewell of Polysius
  • Brian Galison of Nelson Mullins
  • Jason Bernstein of Barnes & Thornburg
  • Meg Kochuba, Katie Manley, and Bryan Stillwagon of Paul Hastings
  • Radha Manthe of King & Spalding
  • Cyndi Steinmetz

Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta also gave a special appreciation award to the State Bar of Georgia Corporate Counsel Law Section for their grants to PBPA over the past four years to fund special projects, including initial funding for PBPA’s first staff attorney, Robyn Miller, and first paralegal, Laura Moore.

Generous contributions by the following businesses covered the expenses of the appreciation event:

  • Presenting Sponsor
    • Thomson Reuters
  • Sustaining Sponsor
    • RR Donnelly
  • Supporting Sponsor
    • SunTrust
    • Counsel on Call

“Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta would not exist without our volunteers and donors,” said Spears. “This event gives us the opportunity to thank them and to highlight the extraordinary work of some of our outstanding volunteers.”

Posted on December 21, 2012

Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta volunteers provided more than $2.3 million worth of legal services to Atlanta nonprofits last year. The time and talents of our attorney volunteers make a big difference to the nonprofits they serve. Below are some “shout outs” to our volunteers from their appreciative nonprofit clients:

To: Patty Butler of Turner Broadcasting
From: Resource Service Ministries
Pro Bono was able to connect me with Patty Butler who works in the HR department at Turner Broadcasting. She reviewed our old employee manual, helped me understand many of the new employee requirements for our size organization, and walked me through the whole process of updating our policies. Our new employee manual has made managing our staff a much easier task. I want to thank Patty and Pro Bono for helping a small non-profit like Resource Service Ministries receive such a high level of expertise.”

To: Amy Wilson of Bryan Cave LLP
From: A Friend’s House
Thank you so much for your time and talent in helping us with our website audit… As a non-profit agency we must depend on the generosity of others to sustain our programs. Thank you for taking the time out of an already busy day to help us.

To: Mindy Doster of Elavon
From: Midtown Assistance Center
On behalf of the Midtown Assistance Center, I thank you for working with us through Pro Bono Partnership to provide valuable legal services. As a small nonprofit, it is often difficult to raise the funds for many necessary expenses and still fulfill our mission to provide assistance to the working poor. By donating your time and expertise, you enabled us to assist many hard working families struggling to make ends meet.

To: Jeff Young of Alston & Bird
From: Jeryme Brown & Mitchell Smalls Foundation
I would just like to add that Jeff has been a true blessing to our company… I would like to extend a special thank you to PBPA for connecting our organization with Jeff. I feel we have forged a life-long relationship!

To: Kirk Domescik of Duane Morris LLP
From: Action Ministries
I wanted to thank PBPA for Kirk Domescik’s involvement in the Action Ministries and Feed the Hungry Partnership. I am impressed by his professionalism and expertise (and he is also a nice guy).

Posted on December 21, 2012
L-R: Jeff Firestone, Teri McClure, Rachel Spears, Betsy Griswold, Dena Hong

The UPS Foundation recently awarded a $50,000 grant to Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta. For the third year in a row, the UPS Foundation is PBPA’s largest annual funder. Once again, the grant will be used to fund PBPA’s Nonprofit Legal Checkup program.

The primary goal of the Legal Checkup program, which takes place on a quarterly basis, is to improve the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations by identifying and addressing legal issues that may affect their viability. The program also provides rewarding skills-based volunteer opportunities for attorneys and paralegals, and encourages further volunteerism with PBPA. As an essential component of PBPA’s commitment to provide quality legal assistance to nonprofits so that more funds may be directed towards nonprofits’ missions, the Legal Checkup program requires a significant amount of preparation and development.

“We are so grateful here at Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta for UPS’s donation and continued support, especially since the Legal Checkup program goes to the heart of what we do,” added Rachel Epps Spears, Executive Director of PBPA.

The $50,000 grant is yet another highlight in UPS’s relationship with PBPA. Since PBPA’s founding, 36 volunteers from UPS’s Legal Department have provided legal assistance to almost 70 nonprofit organizations. Betsy Griswold serves as Vice Chair and Brent Houk serves as a member of PBPA’s Board of Directors.

Posted on December 20, 2012

As anyone in the nonprofit world knows, December doesn’t just mean the holidays; it means major fundraising time. According to a study by Network for Good, one-third of charities’ online donations are made in December and 22 percent of online gifts are made in the last two days of the year.

So in this season of giving, I want to take a moment to thank those who have already given to us this year. Thank you to the law firms, corporations, foundations and bar sections that make generous contributions to us each year to keep us operating. We’ve listed all those that have given so far this year on our newsletter. I want to highlight two recent gifts – $30,000 from the GE Foundation, one of our founding supporters, and $50,000 from the UPS Foundation (see article below). Thank you also to all of the individuals that have made gifts to us already, including many of our volunteer attorneys, clients, Board members and Advisory Committee members. Several of you gave to us by participating in the first Georgia Gives Day. We raised over $3,000 on that one day alone.

I would also like to remind everyone else that you can donate on our website at www.pbpatl.org anytime, including through December 31. Thank you for your support!

Posted on December 20, 2012

In October, Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta welcomed Laura Hennighausen as the new Program and Development Coordinator, taking over for long-time staff member Andrea Pendleton.

Originally from New Jersey, Laura moved several times, ending up in Georgia to attend the University of Georgia. Her interest in nonprofit work brought her from Athens to Atlanta to work as the Registration Coordinator at the Atlanta Botanical Garden for three years. In 2011, Laura left ABG to pursue a Master of Arts degree in Arts Administration at Savannah College of Art and Design, and then joined PBPA in October 2012 to put her nonprofit management skills to work.

Laura reviews Requests for Legal Assistance, assists with Legal Checkups and manages fundraising for PBPA. In her spare time, Laura volunteers for local nonprofits including BurnAway.org and is currently organizing a monthly nonprofit professionals meeting for her final project to complete her masters degree. She lives in Southwest Atlanta with her boyfriend, three cats, two turtles, and a deaf pit-bull.

Posted on December 20, 2012
A firefighter receives a high-five during the Foundation’s annual
“Give Burns The Boot”® fundraising campaign

An American flag donated from U.S. Air Force members serving in Iraq sits signed and framed in the office of the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation (GFBF). That flag is a token of appreciation, but also a symbol that the organization can have an impact on many lives beyond those it directly serves.

GFBF received the flag because Air Force members overseas adopted the organization as their charity of choice. One of those servicemen advocated for the organization after he had attended Camp Oo-U-La, GFBF’s flagship event, as a child. Camp Oo-U-La is an annual week-long camp for over 100 burn-injured children to forge bonds, share experiences, and receive emotional support. At the camp many children gain the courage to stop hiding their scars when joining in activities. But executive director Dennis Gardin adds “we encourage them that it’s ok to do this back home too, and enjoy the pool with their friends.”

In addition to Camp Oo-U-La, GFBF organizes peer support networks for burn victims and families offering them a forum to speak and be heard. GFBF works with the Grady Burn Center in Atlanta and the JM Still Burn Center in Augusta by donating equipment, organizing housing for patients’ families, and hosting holiday parties. GFBF also focuses on fire prevention by partnering with local Georgia fire departments to coordinate programs in the community and in schools.

Since its creation in 1982, GFBF has received much recognition in the community including from Home Depot, Wells Fargo, Rotary International, and even a mention on ABC’s 20/20 news program. Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta’s volunteer attorneys have worked on various projects with GFBF along the way ranging from reviewing bylaws to revising camp application forms. Gardin appreciates Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta’s work with GFBF. “They educated us about things that never crossed our minds. . . . I could do a commercial about Pro Bono Partnership, but I couldn’t fit in all the great things I have to say in 30 seconds.”

Volunteer attorneys who have assisted GFBF include Bill Brewster, Dean Calloway, Alex Diaz, Ashley Halfman, William Helmsetter, Bryony Hodges, Brent Houk, Elizabeth Irvin, Joseph Langhirt, Suzanne McRobbie, Bill Roche, Daniel Rollman, Anu Seam, Michelle Stewart, and Delbert Winn.

Posted on November 16, 2012

The following is an excerpt from The United States of PILCH, a blog by Nathan MacDonald, an Australian attorney traveling in the United States.

I have said goodbye to Chicago and have made it south to Atlanta, Georgia. This is a visit I’ve been looking forward to for some time, as many of my counterparts across the United States have said that I ought to see firsthand the work of the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, an organisation that that works with limited resources however bats well above its average by providing outstanding legal support for Georgia’s nonprofit sector.

Arriving at the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta’s office I was worried that its reputation created unreasonable expectations, however it didn’t take long for me to understand why this group has such a strong name in the pro bono sector. Working out of a donated office space within a upper tier commercial law firm in Midtown Atlanta, Pro Bono Partnership operates with minimal staff, but strategically leverages its resources to be a big player in the nonprofit and legal community in Georgia.

L-R, Dawn Murray (House of Dawn), Barbara
Duffy (North Fulton Community Charities), Denise
Leak (Joseph and Sarah Caring for Vets),
and Drew Benton (Project Live Love)

The majority of my time in Atlanta was spent with Rachel Spears, Executive Director of Pro Bono Partnership. I’d heard about ‘southern hospitality’, and Rachel and her team certainly lived up to the hype, welcoming me from the moment I walked through the door. After a tour of the office and a discussion with the staff on the various aspects of the service, Rachel and I talked shop over some authentic southern soul food – fried chicken, collared greens, black eyed peas and sweet tea… both the discussion and the food was amazing!

Perhaps it is because of the smaller size of the organisation, however I feel as though Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta does a lot of things in a simple yet extremely effective manner. In particular, their use of webinars and face-to-face workshops to deliver education and training to the community sector is terrific. Each month a webcast is delivered free of charge to registered viewers (either in-house or through the use of a volunteer attorney), and that recording will generally stay on the website as a new resource for the community sector’s benefit. They also aim to provide two face-to-face workshops a month – an amazing education campaign that simply would not be possible were it not for the pro bono support of volunteer attorneys in Atlanta, and the ability for Pro Bono Partnership to harness and leverage that philanthropic spirit. A full list of webcasts and workshops previously offered by Pro Bono Partnership is available here.

I was also very interested in the use of a quarterly clinic facilitated by Pro Bono Partnership using in-house attorneys to provide nonprofits with a legal ‘check-up’. This is a model I’ve seen in several other organisations throughout this trip, however Pro Bono Partnership’s links with in-house attorneys appears particularly strong, and this clinic model serves to foster those relationships. I absolutely love the idea of broadening our engagement with corporate in-house lawyers through PilchConnect – the legal issues we deal with for our clients are typically in the ‘wheelhouse’ for these attorneys (contract law, industrial relations, insurance, intellectual property etc), and we have the chance to provide corporate counsel with meaningful pro bono referral opportunities that are both challenging and fulfilling, as well as valuable to the community sector. On a side note, I hadn’t realised Atlanta was the home of Coca-Cola (there is even a Coke museum here), and I’m really impressed by this company’s philanthropic support of the nonprofit sector, including extensive pro bono contributions from their in-house legal team working with Pro Bono Partnership (note: if Pepsi is reading this, I’m sure you’re great too).

That afternoon Rachel took me to an information session she was facilitating at a local community college titled ‘Myths and Realities of Starting and Running a Nonprofit‘. The workshop involved Rachel leading a panel discussion with four of Pro Bono Partnership’s clients, sharing their experiences with an audience about starting and operating a nonprofit organisation. After speaking with so many pro bono attorneys, both nonprofit and commercial throughout this trip, it was great to hear from the clients’ perspectives, and I found it really inspiring to see what these individuals have achieved after identifying an unmet need in the charitable sector. Of the panel of speakers, Dawn had started a shelter for teenage mothers, Denise manages a home for veterans at risk of homelessness, Drew runs a group that promotes volunteerism in the community, and Barbara manages a community support service in the outer suburbs of Atlanta.

Each of these panelists makes amazing contributions to society through their respective organisations, assisting some of the most marginalised people in their communities, and it was great to be present in the room as they told their stories. In each of the presentations, the speakers noted the critical role of pro bono legal representation for their respective organisations, and it brought home to me the amount of hats these people are forced to wear when forming and running a nonprofit. Easing the burden of legal and regulatory compliance through pro bono support makes an incredible difference to the survival of such groups, and while it is ‘behind the scenes’ work that isn’t always publicly recognised, the work that volunteer attorneys do to support the visions of these individuals is priceless.

I loved hearing the client stories throughout this workshop, and as a result I am determined to do better at capturing the feedback of the nonprofit groups we assist at PilchConnect. While these stories serve as valuable resources when it comes to funding applications and outcome measurement, it also reminds us community lawyers why it is that we do what we do, providing valuable perspective to keep us on track.

Reading back, this post seems a bit overly positive, however it’s a reflection of me feeling recharged after a terrific visit with Rachel and the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta’s team. Towards the end of the visit, Rachel mentioned that she was amazed at the similarities between our two organisations despite being on other sides of the globe. We each grapple with the same challenges, share the same successes and have evolved along a remarkably similar path. That said, I think Pro Bono Partnership does a lot of things better than us right now, including providing a simple clear message about who they are, and what they do. I have some great ideas about branding and improving our message upon my return, with thanks to our friends in Atlanta.

My final observation from Georgia is that the term “ya’ll” is used interchangeably with a lot of words down here, and in my view has real appeal. I’ve already found myself using it in my vocabulary, and while it may be some time before it becomes accepted during courtroom pleadings, I’ll be sure to bring it back with me to share with ya’ll soon.

Posted on October 8, 2012

Fall is bringing changes to Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta. First, we have a recent addition to our staff – our new part-time paralegal, Laura Moore. We want to thank the Corporate Counsel Section of the State Bar for providing the initial funding for the position. You can find out more about Laura, including her favorite football team, in the article below.

In November, Frank Landgraff will pass the reins as PBPA Board Chair to Rick McMurtry of Turner Broadcasting System. In addition to being a longstanding PBPA Board Member, Rick is also a dedicated pro bono lawyer. He was recently profiled as August Volunteer Attorney of the Month on georgiaadvocates.org. You can see his profile here.

Finally, we will soon say goodbye to Andrea Pendleton, our Manager of Nonprofit Relations, who will be joining the staff of the YMCA of Metro Atlanta as Campaign Manager on October 15. Andrea has been with PBPA for over 5 years and she will be sorely missed, especially by me.

Rachel

Posted on October 8, 2012
Marion Tilson of AT&T (left) and Lisa Williams of Circle of Friends

When Marion Tilson first spoke with her new client Lisa Williams, she had no idea that the pro bono matter she was handling for Lisa’s nonprofit organization was the 3000th matter placed by Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta. Neither did we, until we went back and checked our records. But it’s not a surprise that Marion and Lisa were involved in this monumental matter. Marion, an attorney with AT&T, regularly volunteers for projects through PBPA and Lisa’s organization, Circle of Friends, has sought assistance from PBPA on many occasions.

Lisa recently contacted PBPA seeking an attorney to review several contracts for Living Water for Girls, a program of Circle of Friends. Living Water for Girls rescues, rehabilitates and restores the lives of young American girls who have survived human sex trafficking and exploitation. Several colleges have offered to provide free admission to young women in the Living Water for Girls program. The colleges have prepared agreements that lay out each party’s obligations and Lisa wanted an attorney to advise her. Marion, whose expertise is in contracts, was happy to help an organization with such a compelling mission.

Marion has volunteered for 11 PBPA projects since 2011 and was recognized as Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta Corporate Volunteer Attorney of the Year in January 2012. Lisa has been recognized many times for her efforts in founding and running Circle of Friends, including by CNN and by L’Oréal as a 2011 Woman of Worth.

Lisa says of PBPA attorneys like Marion, “they are invaluable and have helped tremendously with Living Water for Girls’ mission…. PBPA attorneys are, quite frankly, the best of the best. Their willingness to volunteer and share their knowledge, skills and abilities with nonprofit organizations like mine mean that we can continue to devote our limited resources to assist those we serve. PBPA involvement with our organization has no doubt helped to keep our doors open and to save the lives of 57 young girls. We are extremely grateful for their ‘can-do’ spirit and the hundreds of attorneys who have answered the call to serve.”

For PBPA, the 3000th pro bono matter is another exciting milestone. Since the organization started seven years ago, almost 1800 attorneys have volunteered to help nonprofits with their legal needs. Who will be our 2000th volunteer?